Singaporeans love cars with small engine capacities.
But it’s not because we are environmentalists by nature and feel a moral need to burn less fuel. It is simply because paying road tax hurts as much as paying income tax.
When car models come in smaller engine variants, they sell better than their more powerful and often more sonorous siblings. These prudent buyers feel smug about doling out less dollar for the same flash.
Skoda Singapore now offers the Superb with a 1.8 litre version of the TSI engine. Sadly, the superb Superb 2.0, with the Golf GTI-derived engine, is currently unavailable locally.
That variant has it all-good looks, house-moving space, hot-hatch power and handling. Ditto for the smaller Octavia vRS.
It is probably a surprise to know that the first two generations of Superb sold more than 700,000 units globally between 2001 and 2015.
However, the second generation Skoda Superb, made between 2008 and 2015 appeared disproportionate and bottom heavy. It looked slow and did not seem like it should carry the flagship torch.
Launched in June 2015, the latest Skoda Superb is stately, with its well-proportioned and chiselled lines. The quadruple creases on the bonnet and splitter-like, lower front bumper, shout its sporty intentions.
At the back, the origami-like lines continue the theme. So what does the new “lesser” Superb lack for lesser money?
PONIES AND PERFORMANCE
The 40hp and 100Nm difference in power and torque are immediately apparent. Whereas the 217hp (with 350Nm of torque) from the 2-litre Superb feels gazelle-like (zero to 100km/h in 7 seconds), the 1.8-litre engine’s 177hp feels lethargic.
Though not actually sloth-like, it lacks low-end oomph, which makes it feel slower than its 8.1-second century sprint suggests.
This is despite the quick-shifting 7-speed DSG gearbox going through its ratios seamlessly. Conspicuous by its absence are the lack of paddle-shifters behind the steering wheel. Manual shifts are executed via the gear lever on the console, which seems less natural.
Things get much better when you switch to Sport mode, which holds each gear longer so the revs can build.
But it is not entirely satisfying. It lacks the silky power delivery found in the bigger engine and sounds a tad coarse – probably the consequence of having to lug Skoda’s biggest car with 186 fewer cubic centimetres in the engine block.
The multi-function steering wheel which adjusts for reach and rake, is light to turn. The 17-inch front alloys with 215/55 R17 rubbers are understandably less communicative than the bigger wheeled, lower profile 235/40 R19 tyres found in the 2.o TSI.
Upgrading the wheels to optional nineteens not only gives the Superb more presence, it sharpens the steering as well.
COOL AND CLEVER AMENITIES
Finding a comfortable driving position with the driver-only powered seats is easier and faster than your wife choosing what to wear. Once set up, the ergonomics cannot be faulted and buttons are all within easy reach.
There is SmartLink with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLinkTM, via the 8-inch infotainment screen. It is sufficiently large for accurate jabbing with stubby fingers.
It also displays the view from the rear cam when reverse is engaged. Park Assist Control (PDC) is standard along with wing mirrors, which automatically fold after you lock the Skoda Superb via its keyless KESSY system.
Should it be pouring after you have parked the Skoda Superb in the open, there is the umbrella in each of the two front doors to provide cover, a la Rolls-Royce Phantom.
The dashboard is as neat as the exterior. It is uncluttered, classy and clothed in premium materials. Even the door bins are lined with velvet-like cloth. Hiding your wife’s surprise birthday necklace in there won’t cause a noisy giveaway.
The Skoda Superb’s cabin space is class-leading with a wide gap between the front two occupants. However, it’s not “ideal” if you want to get cosy with your new found partner.
The backseat offers plenty of elbow room even with three adults abreast. There is almost limousine-like legroom for the left and right passengers, but the middle one has to put up with a rather wide protrusion or hump.
You’re probably asking, “Isn’t the Skoda Superb a front-wheel drive car?” Well, the offending hump is there to accommodate the driveshaft of the all-wheel-drive variant, which not available here.
The Skoda Superb has a 5-star Euro NCAP rating, so the cabin occupants are also well protected in the event of a crash. There are seven airbags and Electronic Stability Control (ESC).
There’s even more space in the Superb’s boot. Activate the electric release for the tailgate and the whole rear glass rises.
You’ll be wowed by the easy access to the huge 625-litre capacity – enough for your mother-in-law and her cupboard. There is no need to buy an SUV or MPV.
If that cosmic expanse isn’t wide enough, the rear seats can be folded down to also include her rocking chair.
Comfortable is the adjective to describe the Skoda Superb’s ride and handling. A pillow-soft ride may appeal to others, but thankfully, the Superb’s suspension is firm and well-damped.
It only gets a little confused and floats a bit at speed over unpredictable roads, which have been diverted by MRT construction.
Unlike the Skoda Superb 2.0, the Superb 1.8 does not have Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC or adaptive suspension) that controls the shock absorbers and reacts within milliseconds to changing road conditions.
The Skoda Superb 2.0 is the first Skoda to offer DCC.
SHOULD YOU BUY ONE?
The Skoda Superb Ambition 1.8 TSI may seem to lose the plot a bit with the less powerful engine. But for everyday driving, it can keep up with traffic and does everything else with more than you can ever ask of it.
After VW took over the distributorship of Skoda, the cars now come with five year warranties. So, these Czech models are no longer seen as Volkswagen’s poorer cousins.
Indeed, the Skoda cars are good value alternatives to Volkswagen and other European marques. Their increasing numbers on our roads are a testament to this.
Skoda Superb Ambition 1.8 TSI
ENGINE 1798cc, 16-valves, inline-4, turbocharged
MAX POWER 177hp at 5100-6200rpm
MAX TORQUE 250Nm at 1250-5000rpm
GEARBOX 7-speed dual-clutch with manual select
0-100KM/H 8.1 seconds
TOP SPEED 230km/h
CONSUMPTION 16.4km/L (combined)
PRICE INCL. COE $130,400 (no VES rebate/surcharge)
AGENT Skoda Singapore